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Lehigh University Libraries - Library Guides

MEDLINE Searching

Purpose of Guide

This guide concerns use of the three flavors of MEDLINE, a major medical literature databaseavailable on the library's A to Z database list.

  • MEDLINE (via Web of Science) 
  • MEDLINE Ultimate
  • MEDLINE (via PubMed)  (freely accessible, but use the version off the library's database finder to see "Lehigh Links", give access to full-text and also interlibrary loan capabilities.)

See the pages on the left for information about these flavors of MEDLINE.

The Chemical Abstracts Service database, SciFinder, also available in the library's database listing, enables you to search MEDLINE records.

Persons who want to do a thorough search or who will be using MEDLINE extensively may want to review the differences between these interfaces. 

A list of features or search capabilities on which you can compare the three flavors are in the next box. 

See the other pages of this guide for information about using each flavor of MEDLINE.

MEDLINE Searching: Features to Look For

Again, if you want to become a MEDLINE "power searcher", compare the three flavors on how they implement the capabilities necessary for your work. Contact a librarian for assistance in making these comparisons, as they relate to your specific purposes or subject areas. 


  • Available years of coverage
  • Ability to do "citing searching", namely, searching for items that cite the items that come up in your search results. To do a really thorough citing search, use more than one flavor of MEDLINE.
  • Ability to limit search results to "review articles", an important type of article that reviews the literature of a topic, not to be confused with book or software reviews. Also look for the ability to narrow searches to "systematic reviews".
  • Email alerts. 
  • Ability to use the Medical Subject headers (MeSH terms) and their sub-headers. Use of MeSH terms: enables focused, systematic searches using a standardized vocabulary, without having to anticipate synonyms for your research topic. Use of the MeSH qualifiers adds additional power to a search. Plus, the MeSH term hierarchy is worth checking for ideas about where your research topic falls in a conceptual hierarchy, so that you can do focused searching. Keep in mind, however, the limitation of MeSH terms mentioned below.

Contact the science librarian if you would like to review nuances of using MeSH terms, or review other features of Medline in any of its flavors.


From:   Searching PubMed Using MeSH Search Tags

"Note: Searching with MeSH terms excludes citations that have not yet been fully indexed, citations that are out of scope, and others that do not (or do not yet) include MeSH terms."

So, realize that to do a comprehensive search, if you want to use MeSH, you may want to supplement them as well with other types of searching that will find records that *don't* have the MeSH terms listed.  Nonetheless, MeSH terms can provide ideas for search terms to include in conjunction with MeSH terms. E.g., search the appropriate headers but also Boolean "OR" to add in keyword versions of the MeSH terms at appropriate points. Keep in mind that you'll need, in addition to use a keyword version of the MeSH term, to find keyword synonyms for the terms as well. Another thing to keep in mind is indexing is not perfect, so use of additional keywords anyhow may be of value.

For more important details about MeSH terms and searching them, see the page about Medline (via PubMed) in this guide.